Apipé snails are the only representatives of the Thiaridae family that are distributed in the Neotropical Region, developing in tropical and subtropical habitats of Central America and South America, historically found exclusively in Argentina in the Paraná River.
Despite the fact that in recent decades populations of the A. chloroticum species have been found in different places, covering an area of less than 150 km above the river, the Red List of Endangered Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers them “Extinct in the wild”. This is because the Aylacostoma has been significantly affected after the construction and filling of the reservoir of the Yacyretá-Apipé hydroelectric complex from 1993 to date. The emplacement of hydroelectric dams near their distribution areas caused drastic changes in the environments inhabited by the species of the referred genus, causing the extinction of local forms in various places of their original distribution. In this sense, after the reservoir was filled as a result of the location of the hydroelectric dam, the snails went from living in less than a meter deep, in very clear water and with a bed of rocks covered with algae, to being submerged under 10 meters deep in still, poorly oxygenated, dark waters with a muddy bed.
The Apipé Snail Conservation Program developed in Ecoparque aims to establish groups of individuals of Aylacostoma under human care (focusing on the species Aylacostoma chloroticum). In this way, it seeks to improve the conservation status of the referred genus, and contribute to its persistence both in situ and ex situ. Thus, it will also seek to perfect the methodology to carry out the aforementioned releases, which may in turn serve as a guide in the future.
To carry out the ex situ breeding, from a fraction of the relictual populations, the characteristics of the rapids will be replicated in controlled conditions: high oxygen concentration, strong currents, luminosity and bedrock.
In December 2019, the installation of the ex situ repository began in Ecoparque, replicating the conditions established in the system found in the Natural Science Museum “Bernardino Rivadavia”. Once completed, in February 2020, 50 individuals of Aylacostoma chloroticum were translocated to Ecoparque to begin their acclimatization and the consequent establishment of the ex situ population of the institution.
During 2021, it was possible to reach more than six hundred and fifty (650) births of these Snails in Ecoparque, from a founding population of only fifty (50) individuals.
Through this Program it is sought to:
Maintain a stock of Aylacostoma spp under human care in Ecoparque, to collaborate with the preservation of the referred genus in view of the extreme vulnerability that it currently presents in the wild.
Contribute to comprehensive research of the genus in areas related to biology, ecology, genetics, reproduction, for its ex situ management and in situ conservation.
Participate in experimental releases of snails of the genus Aylacostoma in natural environments previously identified as suitable for its proliferation, which allow generating information for a future improvement of the conservation status of the referred genus and the potential return of those populations to the wild.
Use Ecoparque´s property as a platform to raise awareness of the problems that affect the snails of the Aylacostoma genus in the Argentine Republic, mainly related to the impact of large hydroelectric dams on the loss of habitats and the consequent alteration in biodiversity.